Sunday, June 19, 2011

Online education and instruction

The Navarro College Board of Trustees heard positive news at its regular monthly meeting on Thursday about the consistent growth of online classes being taken by students, which now account for approximately 22 percent of all Navarro College enrollments.An overview of how the courses have grown, including steps taken by the college to expand its capacity in online education and instruction, was presented to the board by Matt Miller, the Online Instruction and Media Integration Director.

Miller also briefed trustees on a full history of how Navarro College started and then expanded its online programs, and the changes that helped to make the progress a reality.The college first began with 12 online classes for general education courses in 1999-2000 after agreeing to participate in the Virtual College of Texas, which provided a sharing venue for online courses among Texas community colleges.We started going through our catalog and we started noticing that many of our programs could be obtained online, at least 50 percent or more,Miller told the board.

This expansion was realized when Navarro College received approval from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools to provide 50 percent or more of its programs via online delivery in 2009.Following the adoption of several online tools, including Net Library, softChalk safe assign and Live Homework Help, internet student and faculty options now allow for over 90 available online courses.Currently there are 12 of the 63 degree and certificate programs offered by the college that are 100 percent attainable through online instruction. A significant amount of the courses, 43 of the 63 are attainable with 50 percent or more of the course work taken online.

Miller told the board that it was hard to pinpoint the exact reasons for the growth in online instruction, but suggested that some students prefer to take courses from the comfort of their own home rather than come into college. He also factored in the price of gas as a possible incentive to stay home rather than drive unnecessarily.Tuition fee costs at four-year institutions and an increase in online courses being offered were other possible reasons for driving the growth, Miller said.

He told the board that 74 percent of online enrollments at Navarro College were from the five-county service area of Ellis, Navarro, Freestone, Limestone and Leon counties. The increased course options have also allowed for more than 22 percent of students enrolled online being able to study at Navarro College from inside Texas but outside the service area, and for the remaining 3.6 percent to study at Navarro from outside of the state.Female students accounted for 68.4 percent of online enrollments, he said.With year on year growth, contact hours have grown from more than 400,000 due to online classes in 2005-6 to more than a million in 2009-10.

An Academic Council and Online Committee has also been set up specifically to monitor online courses, consisting of faculty, department chairs and administrative staff, Miller said.The way for the future is also being set out, with preparation for increased online learning already in place. Factors such as providing additional orientation and skills development classes and state of the art resources are being continually monitored.Assessment was briefly questioned by board members who were concerned that the person who is taking the degree may not be the person taking the final assessment. Miller pointed out though that this was just as much of a possibility on paper testing, with another person potentially being able to take the place of the person being assessed in an examination scenario on college grounds.Of the college’s growth between 2008-09 and 2009-10, online classes alone accounted for more than 30 percent of that growth.

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